Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Clinton Redux?

Apparently some “critics” believe that President-elect Obama should not be choosing so many staffers with ties to the Clinton administration if he really is all about the “change” that was promised during his campaign. My response to that is (1) when the critic is that nasty, whining Republican “strategist” Leslie Sanchez, who I spent many a pre-election moment wishing would evaporate from my TV screen, I’m not inclined to give any credence to the criticism, and (2) how can he NOT pull in members of his new team from that era of administration? The world is not full of people with some experience in the business of running the country, and if the common campaign complaint against Obama was that he had no experience, then it only makes sense that he surrounds himself with people who do. Obama is the president, not anyone else, so if he wants governance not to be business as usual then that is the mandate he has to set with his team, and if they want to keep their jobs then they will follow it.

That said, I am not in love with the idea of Hillary Clinton as secretary of State, and there are media reports that she might not be, either. She is “agonizing” over the decision because she “likes to be her own boss.” I can understand that, particularly when her new boss would be the person who beat her out for the job. And of course there’s the little matter that it might be construed as tacky when she tries to steal her boss’ job away when she wants to run for president again in 2012 and will undoubtedly have to insult him and his policies again at that time. She is certainly qualified for the job, but why would Obama want to bring all that drama and her enormous ego (not to mention that of her once-great and now horrifying caricature of a husband) into his Cabinet? Would she even be able to restrain herself from putting forth her own policy positions to foreign leaders if she didn’t agree with Obama? She simply isn’t one to play second fiddle, and that’s fine. She shouldn’t take the job.

And why did Obama even offer her the position? Is it a case of “keep your enemies closer”? Or did he know she would balk at taking the position so he felt he could offer it to her and still look like the good guy when she turned it down? Did he think it would be a way to get the eternally slighted and angry Bill Clinton off his back? Or perhaps he genuinely thinks she’s the best person for the job, since she does have a good relationship and familiarity with so many foreign leaders. But I doubt it. Obama is as much of a politician as the rest of them, so there must be a motive in there somewhere.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


I’ve had an election hangover. Barely managing to scan the headlines each morning, I haven’t much cared what’s going on during this transition period. Even all my addictive partisan news shows have lost their luster. It’s hard to stay too engaged when all the same horrible problems continue to face the country today and for now we still have the worst president in American history. And how are we addressing our most immediate and largest problem – the ever downwardly-spiraling economy? With the incredible juggernaut that is “The Bailout.”

The Bailout, also euphemistically known for a brief period as the “rescue package” before reverting to its harsher but more accurate descriptor, is something to behold as it spreads like slime into every crevice of American business. I’m a liberal and all that, but is every last segment of the economy planning to take NO responsibility for getting itself into this predicament, and instead come to Uncle Sam, hat in hand? The argument is that the situation is now so dire that finger-pointing will not solve the crisis and something simply has to be done immediately to stanch the bleeding.

Yes. It was imperative that AIG receive a second influx of the taxpayers’ money when the first wasn’t enough to fund those corporate jaunts to plush resorts or the bonuses to which management believed it was still entitled, and it was imperative that the homeowners who didn’t read their own contracts or bother to check their figures adequately receive some kind of relief to stay in their homes to which they, as Americans, are entitled. And now it’s essential that an industry of companies that largely refused or failed to develop products that could compete on some level with foreign automakers receive a massive influx of cash so that they don’t close down and put thousands of “real Americans” out of work.

Perhaps my sympathy would have flown as freely as our government’s cash if the greedy financial companies hadn’t already sucked up all my goodwill. Frankly, a failing auto industry, even if that failure is somewhat of their own making, is a more compelling recipient of government funds than grossly overpaid financial types who twisted the system for their own staggering gain and now mewl about it while the rest of the country pays the price. But where does it all end, and where does this money come from?

What would happen if the Republicans’ prized market economy was allowed to experience the brunt of its own mistakes and excess? I guess the government would be paying for it one way or another.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Sarah Palin, We Hardly Knew Ye.

And boy, do I like it that way. Some may think she is destined to be the next big thing in the Republican Party, but I’m skeptical. It’s pretty clear that her mode of politics was resoundingly rejected by the American public, much to John McCain’s chagrin. After all, when he brought her on board to re-energize his base and bring over independents, she flat-out failed. Not at energizing his Christian conservative base; as a delightfully groomed embodiment of all they hold dear, she did that extremely well. But she alienated and even repulsed independents and moderate Democrats. Many were insulted by the notion put forward by the McCain campaign that she was ready for prime time. After a mandate such as the one given to Barack Obama, how is Governor Palin’s singular brand of divisiveness going to become more attractive 4 years from now?

A larger question is whether there will be redemption for John McCain. He followed up a horrible campaign with a moving, eloquent concession speech that reminded us of what was likeable about him in the first place. If only he had remained true to his old persona during his campaign, the one that had won him friends and grudging admirers on both sides of the aisle, who knows how the election would have turned out.

But he did not. McCain either allowed himself to be manipulated by his advisers or showed his own true colors – neither option being an appealing one. He is still the senior senator from Arizona, and there is no reason to believe that will change any time soon. He can still enjoy his power, even if he has to endure ribbing about his choice of VP, and maybe even anger that he did so much to help the Republicans lose. Or, as is more likely, the Republicans can write the loss off to a nation so dissatisfied with George Bush that they were only going to elect a Democrat this time no matter who the Republicans ran against them. And John McCain can resume his role of tetchy old troublemaker until he dies in office.

In the meantime, the Democrats have some serious fixin’ to do.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Hope - Triumph or Defeat.

I keep reading that America will make history today regardless of the candidate that we choose: we will either have our first African-American president, OR the delightful twofer of the oldest elected President and the first woman vice-president. Somehow, Option Two doesn’t sound like history to me, other than that by electing the Crypt Keeper and his batshit sidekick into office we would be writing America’s obituary into the history books.

Try as I might, which is not very hard, I can’t see the 10 week joyride that Sarah Palin will have taken into office as a great historical stride for women, nor do I see electing the oldest white guy ever into office to be of positive import. Who cares? All that election would say to me is we are a nation of fools, clinging to a loveless marriage with our idealization of a glorious past instead of opening our minds to the possibility of a glorious future.

Call me “defeatist” or “un-American,” but my feminist dream of electing a woman into the second highest executive office in the land didn’t include (1) the second highest office at all, or (2) some hard line Republican’s wet dream of a prettily packaged, cold-eyed power monger whose only hint of true compassion is for special needs children and fetuses. Rather, it included somebody exceedingly smart and capable, who worked hard herself for the prize, and didn’t have it handed to her purely as a cynical ploy by that oldest living white man in his own search for glory.

So I will settle for electing the first African-American man into office, and if I let go of my last lingering resentment that women ALWAYS come in second, then it’s not settling at all. It’s sheerly and powerfully wonderful. How incredible that the day has finally come where, if the polls are correct, a majority of Americans will elect someone into office who represents the very best of what America has to offer to the world: a person who is a true face of what America has become – an increasingly assimilated cultural melting pot - and what it needs to be – a country that values intelligence and thoughtfulness; that prizes education.

Black Americans get to experience something today that I can only imagine: seeing themselves represented as a candidate for the (until recently) most respected job in the world. To see what education and hard work can help you to accomplish – what incredible possibility for our children!

Please let today be the triumph of hope and possibility over:

Dirty politics
Outdated notions of what makes America great.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Countdown to Something.

Almost every poll and every pundit is calling the race for Obama. I will not believe it until I see it. After the last eight years, which to me and others represent such a giant slap in the face to democracy, I can’t help but wonder not if, but how, the darkest, battleship gray of the right wing is going to steal this election.

Has it already happened in a “democratic” way, meaning that McCain will win a majority of the electorate because he has sufficiently convinced the “real America” that Barack Obama consorts with, and obviously is himself, a Muslim Socialist Terrorist who Hates America? Or will Americans have rejected McCain’s divisive techniques to win power for himself? If that’s so, and the victory is actually clear, then what will the neo-cons do? Start a bigger war in the Middle East? Threaten Iran with a nuclear holocaust? Sorry, America, it’s just not safe to transition power to the new president right now! You’ll have to wait until we give you the green light… and don’t hold your breath.

Perhaps this sounds like an overreaction on my part, but recent history has been damaging. The actions of this administration and its shady, behind-the-scenes operatives are like a cement block around the feet of my trust with respect to believing they would follow the rule of law when it doesn’t suit them.

I just want this to be over with so I can know whether my faith in America (on many levels) should be restored, or whether I need to accept that the country is full of too many people who just don’t share the same priorities as I do.